Sunday, June 27, 2010

No Excuses!

Steve Willis is the Commando. Those who watch The Biggest Loser (Australia) will all know the Commando and the tough workouts he provides for the contestants in his charge. In No Excuses! Steve Willis briefly tells his life story and his philosophy of life. After leaving the army (Special Forces) Steve became a personal trainer, eventually running a fitness business, and also trained as a CrossFit athlete participating in the 2009 International Crossfit Games. Articles written by former Biggest Loser contestants are interspersed throughout the book. The final chapters contain information about CrossFit plus examples of how to lift weights. His food diary on page 145 caused a few comments from members of my family. No excuses! provides an interesting insight into the man of steel with the sunglasses and tatts who makes the bravest contestants quaver when they realise that they are to have a session with the Commando.

Eat my dust: early women motorists

Women played a significant part in the early history of motoring. In Eat my dust, Georgine Clarsen provides a number of case studies of women motorists and mechanics in the USA, Britain, South Africa and Australia prior to the Second World War.

The Woman who does - A Melbourne Women's Motor Garage (chapter 6) tells of the Alice Anderson Motor Service, a garage in Kew that employed only female staff and, among other services, provided courses for women who wanted to know more about the workings of the car.

Driving Australian modernity - Conquering Australia by car (chapter 7) describes three expeditions by women around or across Australia by car in 1926 and 1927.

Campaigns on Wheels - American automobiles and a suffrage of consumption (chapter 5) explores the use by women of the motor car to promote the suffrage cause across the United States of America.

Reading these accounts it is obvious that women quickly saw the advantages of this new method of transport and the freedom it gave them to explore their world.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

House rules

Jacob Hunt is 18 and has Asperger's syndrome. He lives with his mother, Emma and 15 year old brother, Theo. His father left the family when Jacob was 3 and has since remarried and has two young daughters. Jodi Picoult's book provides an insight into lives of members of a family where one of the members has special needs, is unable to communicate efficiently, takes verbal communication literally, is easily upset when routines are changed yet wants to be accepted as a normal human being. Jacob is highly intelligent and has a photographic memory. He is fascinated by forensic science and enjoys recreating crime scenes and watching CrimeBusters at 4.30 each week day afternoon. Jacob also believes that people should tell the truth and his life is conditioned by a series of 'house rules'.

When Jessie Ogilvy, Jacob's tutor, goes missing and her body is later found wrapped in Jacob's handmade quilt, Jacob is arrested. A major theme of the book examines how the legal system copes, or fails to cope, with providing a fair trial for someone whose everyday actions would normally indicate that he is guilty and who is unable to fully comprehend questions put to him.

The story told by Emma, Jacob, Theo, Rich (the detective) and Oliver (the lawyer defending Jacob) often provides different perspectives of an event. This book would provide many discussion possibilities for members of book clubs.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Wide Sargasso Sea

This prelude to Charlotte Bronte's novel, Jane Eyre, was written by Jean Rhyss. Set in the West Indies the book is the story of Antoinette Cosway and her relationship with Rochester before he took her to England. Events and often misunderstandings in Antoinette's early life determine her eventual path to insanity. Much of the book deals with Antoinette's struggle for identity and acceptance against the backdrop of the environment in which she lives and the prejudices of those around her.

The dog who came in from the cold

Number two in the Corduroy Mansions series continues stories of the lives of the inhabitants of this London block of flats and of their friends and family. The Pimlico terrier, Freddie de la Hay, has an adventure while working on a mission for MI6, Caroline agonises over her relationship with James, Barbara Ragg finds happiness with her Scottish fiance, Rupert Porter continues to desire Barbara's flat, the Green Man intervenes to save Terence Moongrove from financial ruin, Dee decides to make her fortune marketing a product to aid solving Sudoku puzzles while Rupert trails a yeti through Fortnum & Mason. The skillful interweaving of the various plots leaves the reader waiting for the next chapter featuring this eccentric collection of neighbours.